If you want to get a feel for how many home buyers there are currently active in the housing market, the National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index is a good place to start. It tracks the number of contracts to buy homes signed during the month and, because it measures contract signings and not closings, it’s a good future indicator of where home sales will be a month or so down the road. In short, if there are a lot of pending sales, there will likely be a lot of final sales. Which is why, February’s results are a pretty good indication that the spring season is ramping up. Contract signings were up 3.1 percent in February and rebounded in all four regions of the country. The largest increase was in the Northeast, though pending sales also saw significant improvement in the South. Still, despite the gains, NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun says the pace falls short of last year’s level. “Contract signings rebounded in most areas in February but the gains were not enough to keep up with last February’s level, which was the second highest in over a decade,” Yun said. More here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates rose last week but the increase did nothing to dampen demand for loans. In fact, refinance activity was up 7 percent from the week before and requests for purchase loan applications increased 3 percent. Demand for loans to buy homes is now 8 percent higher than at the same time last year. What does this mean? Well, the fact that demand for mortgages rose during a week when average mortgage rates were also up indicates that Americans are not being dissuaded by higher interest rates. Though mortgage rates do affect affordability, they are still low by historical standards and, it appears, consumers either consider them favorable or may be concerned that waiting any longer to refinance or buy a home may mean rates rise even higher. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.
Asking Americans whether or not they think this is a good time to buy a house can be an imprecise way of measuring interest in the housing market. That’s because there are a number of personal factors that are weighed when deciding whether or not it’s time to make a move. Which is why survey results can sometimes show one group of people who are pessimistic about their options, while another group expresses optimism. For example, a recent survey from the National Association of Realtors found optimism about buying a house is running high among current homeowners but not as much with renters. That’s due to recent equity gains. In short, as home prices have increased, homeowners have benefited and now see an opportunity to turn their gains into a new house. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says this may be good for the overall market. “There’s no question that a majority of homeowners have amassed considerable equity gains since the downturn,” Yun said. “Supply conditions would improve measurably, and ultimately lead to more sales, if a growing number of homeowners finally decide that this spring is the time to list their home for sale.” More here.
A rising number of Americans surveyed for Fannie Mae’s monthly Home Purchase Sentiment Index say their income is higher than it was last year at this time. But has more money made them more likely to buy or sell a house? Well, according to February’s survey results, it’s hard to say. That’s because, after an increase in January, housing sentiment fell in February – with respondents expressing less confidence in a number of categories. In fact, the number of participants who said it’s a good time to buy a house was down, as was the percentage of participants who said it was a good time to sell. But if January saw increases in housing confidence, why the drop in February? Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s senior vice president and chief economist, says some of the uncertainty has to do with changing economic headlines. “Volatility in consumer housing sentiment continued in February, with the new tax law beginning to impact respondents’ take-home pay and the stock market creating negative headlines due to early-month turbulence,” Duncan said. In short, people have more money but they’re still a bit unsure of what lies ahead for the market. More here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates were mostly flat last week. In fact, the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, as well as loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, was largely unchanged from the week before. Only rates for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages saw any significant movement. Still steady rates didn’t lead to much change in overall demand, as a lack of affordable homes to buy means there are fewer Americans requesting mortgage applications. Joel Kan, an MBA economist, told CNBC fewer entry-level homes has also pushed up the average loan amount. “The average loan amount on purchase applications, at $320,100, was the highest since November 2017, as supply constraints likely continued to weigh down lower dollar purchase transactions,” Kan said. In other words, mortgage application amounts have drifted higher because inventory is tighter on the lower end of the market, which means demand is skewed toward higher-priced homes. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.
Buying a house is a major financial transaction and, for most Americans, the largest one they’ll ever undertake. So pulling the necessary resources together to be able to afford the upfront costs, in addition to the ongoing obligations, maintenance, and upkeep can be difficult. Especially for first-time home buyers who don’t have the benefit of being able to sell a home to help fund their down payment. For this reason, many millennials who aspire to homeownership have decided it’s worth making a few sacrifices in order to help save money to buy a house. In fact, according to a recent survey from ValueInsured, there are some common sacrifices young Americans say they are willing to make in order to buy their first home. For example, nearly 60 percent of respondents said they would cut down or give up eating out – which made giving up restaurants the most popular sacrifice among survey participants. Other common sacrifices included taking a second job, not going on vacations, moving back in with their parents, and giving up shopping for clothes. More here.
In January, there were more people looking to purchase homes but fewer people signing contracts to buy. The numbers, from the National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index, show that pending home sales – which refer to contract signings, not closings – were down 4.7 percent from the previous month. But, rather than a drop in home buying interest, the data may reflect something else. According to NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, it shows that there are too few homes available for the number of interested buyers. “The economy is in great shape, most local job markets are very strong, and incomes are slowly rising, but there’s little doubt [January’s] retreat in contract signings occurred because of woefully low supply levels and the sudden increase in mortgage rates,” Yun said. But though low inventory is an ongoing issue for the housing market, Yun believes a potential slowing of rent increases could lead to investors putting more affordable single-family homes up for sale this year, which could add to the number of entry-level homes available for first-time buyers. More here.
If you’re a homeowner, you know the to-do list is never ending. And, if you’re a buyer, you’ll know soon enough. That’s because, owning a home means maintaining a home. Proof of that can be seen in the fifth annual LightStream Home Improvement Survey. According to the results, 58 percent of surveyed homeowners say they’re planning to spend money on home improvement projects in 2018. And the number who said they plan on spending $35,000 or more has doubled from last year. But though there are more homeowners planning projects this year, the list of projects hasn’t changed all that much. Once again, outdoor upgrades remain the most popular, with decks, patios, and landscape projects topping the list. Kitchen and bathroom remodels, of course, also rank high, coming second and third on Americans’ home improvement, to-do list. So how are these homeowners planning on paying for all these upgrades and renovations? Well, the vast majority said they were paying for their projects out of savings. However, another way homeowners are saving on their home improvement bills is by doing, at least, some of the work themselves. More here.
It’s no secret that home prices have been increasing lately, and especially in the nation’s most populous metropolitan areas. So what are home buyers doing to ensure they find – not only a house they love – but one that fits well into their budget? Well one strategy is to look beyond the priciest locations for a more affordable neighborhood in the surrounding area. In other words, home buyers are getting creative in their search for a great home at a great price. And while this usually means moving to the suburbs, in some cases potential buyers are moving even further out. “Buyers have traditionally sought refuge in the suburbs during times of high home prices,” Javier Vivas, director of economic research for the National Association of Realtors’ consumer website. “But with today’s record highs even the suburbs have gotten pricey, which has demand flooding outward as options disappear and prices move further out of reach in top job hubs.” In short, expanding your search radius might be a good way to find a home that’s within reach of both your budget and your job. More here.